This is an English language lesson about a man who was prominent in victorian history.

The man we know as Henry Morton Stanley  was born in 1841 in Denbigh North Wales as John Rowlands.

Abandoned by his mother at birth and effectively orphaned when his Father died, he spent a large part of his childhood in the rough, tough environment of a Welsh workhouse.

There can be little doubt that the shame of the workhouse and the stigma of his illegitimate birth would leave its mark on the Welshman for the rest of his life.

Henry Morton Stanley is famous for his expeditions into the African ‘dark continent’ during the nineteenth century.

He finally left the workhouse as a hardened teenager to sail as a cabin boy on a merchant ship to America.  On arrival to New Orleans, he assumed a new name and a new identity.

Only after fighting on both sides in the American Civil War did the door of opportunity open for him to become a journalist for the New York Herald and have a more aspiring life.

Stanley was then destined to become famous for three quite separate expeditions to sub-sahara Africa.

The first was to find the lost Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone, from whom noithing had been heard, for several years, in his quest to find the source of the river Nile.

The second was to map and charter African lakes and rivers and essentially continue the mission of Livingstone who died in Africa in 1873.

On this second expedition, Stanley is acclaimed as the man who chartered and developed the Congo river basin, rich in natural resources and wildlife, with its outlet on the African west coast to the Atlantic ocean.

For the third, he was commissioned by Leopold II, King of Belgium, to develop roads and a railway from the Portugese outpost of Boma, the one hundred kilometres to the mouth of the Congo river.

This enormous task involved the use of forced labour of the Congolese people and earned Stanley the nickname of ‘Bula Matari’ translated to mean ‘Breaker of Rocks’.

Stanley was certainly isntrumental in setting up the Congo Free State on behalf of the Belgian King in 1885 and as a direct result of the mandate granted to the King virtue of the Berlin Conference of 1884 which he personally attended as a consul on behalf of the Americans.

There are two distinct fields of thought about the credibility of Stanley.

One is that he was an honorable man who was worthy of being an elected parliamentarian and of a knighthood in the final years of his life after he resettled back in Britain.

There are those, however, who remain convinced that he was an exploitative opportunist possessed of a brutal and ruthless streak who lied and deceived his way into history.

It was said of him by American writer Mark Twain that his achievements amounted to a ten storey building compared to his own humble cellar.

Who was Stanley?  What was he really like?

Shall we now never know?





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